Thursday, 31 January 2008

The LORD relented

I read this Bible passage with my daughter Matilda last night:

Ex. 32:11 But Moses implored the LORD his God and said, “O LORD, why does your wrath burn hot against your people, whom you have brought out of the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand? 12 Why should the Egyptians say, ‘With evil intent did he bring them out, to kill them in the mountains and to consume them from the face of the earth’? Turn from your burning anger and relent from this disaster against your people. 13 Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, your servants, to whom you swore by your own self, and said to them, ‘I will multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have promised I will give to your offspring, and they shall inherit it forever.’ ” 14 And the LORD relented from the disaster that he had spoken of bringing on his people.

The idea that God would 'relent' (which essentially means to 'repent', just the way a sinner would repent of sin) is extraordinary, especially when the apparent cause of that repentance is the prayer of Moses.

The basis of the repentance cannot be the reminder of God's promises, since these could be fulfilled just as adequately through Moses (even if he is a descendant of Levi—see Ex 2:1). That is in fact what God had planned to do ("Now therefore let me alone, that my wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them, in order that I may make a great nation of you."—Ex 32:10). So we have to conclude that the basis of God's repentance is his concern for his reputation amongst the Egyptians (See also Ex 7:5; 17; Ex 8:10, 22; 14:4, 18 and compare Ex 8:19 and Ex 9:16).

Did our Lord have this passage in mind in Gethsemane?

Mk 14:36 And he said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.”

Both the example of Moses and the example of Jesus should drive us to prayer in the face of impending disaster. If the answer is 'yes', disaster has been averted. If the answer is 'no', then we know that the disaster is the LORD's will, and that in the very depths of despair he is with us still, as he was with his Son on the cross.

Beckinsale's cat catches fire

Why does this newspaper article exist? Why did I read it? Why did you? Why did I link to it?

I'm quite sure I couldn't say.

Divorce is bad

Not that such a case should need to be argued. But here's an article about it in today's SMH.

Wednesday, 30 January 2008

Joni Mitchell

Love came to my door
With a sleeping roll
And a madmans soul
He thought for sure Id seen him
Dancing up a river in the dark
Looking for a woman
To court and spark

He was playing on the sidewalk
For passing change
When something strange happened
Glory train passed through him
So he buried the coins he made
In peoples park
And went looking for a woman
To court and spark

It seemed like he read my mind
He saw me mistrusting him
And still acting kind
He saw how I worried sometimes
I worry sometimes

All the guilty people, he said
Theyve all seen the stain-
On their daily bread
On their christian names
I cleared myself
I sacrificed my blues
And you could complete me
Id complete you

His eyes were the color of the sand
And the sea
And the more he talked to me
The more he reached me
But I couldnt let go of l.a.
City of the fallen angels

-Court and Spark

Tuesday, 29 January 2008

Nice quote

"This was a remarkably hyperbolic comment, even for an academic in a humanities department."

-Gerard Henderson

Cricket's over

It’s a sad moment.

And still months before the Tour de France.

Might be time to do some work.


IKEA fascinates me. The guy who runs the show is the richest man in the world, a thrifty Swedish farmer by the name of Ingvar Kamprad (so IK.. you see?).

The material IKEA uses for furniture is cheap and nasty, but the stuff they put out has enough good design about it, or is well-priced enough that you just say 'what the hey'. The sub-$4 clock—who cares that I had to buy 3 before I got one that worked? And it is simple and elegant enough in design to overlook some of the stuff that snobby people get worked up about.

The IKEA at Homebush—possibly the best sited business in Sydney—is a veritable cathedral of cheap furniture, with child minding facilities and an attached shopping centre.

We have a cheap IKEA coffee table we got for ten bucks in the seconds section, quite a while ago now. The leg broke so we are looking for a new one, but I taped it up with masking tape and I reckon it has a few months in it yet. It is the best value item of furniture in the house.

Chuck does the right thing

Here's one of the reasons why I'm a monarchist.

In the treatment of their minorities, the Chinese government are amoral scum, make no mistake. But democratic governments, prone to be dictated to by their own economic interests, tend to ignore moral issues.

Charles may be verging on loopy, but he couldn't care less about popular opinion in matters economic. So he can criticize the Chinese government and there's nothing anyone can do about it.

God Save the Queen indeed.

Soeharto dead

One of the worst mass murderers of the 20th century, according to this report in today's SMH.

From the report:

"In terms of numbers killed," a CIA report noted, "the anti-PKI (Indonesian Communist Party) massacres in Indonesia rank as one of the worst mass murders of the 20th century, along with the Soviet purges of the 1930s, the Nazi mass murders during the Second World War and the Maoist bloodbath of the early 1950s." In his three decades in office, Soeharto uttered not one word of apology or regret for this slaughter.

Nor, for that matter, did Australia utter a word of protest. At a time when US and Australian combat forces were being sent to fight communism in South Vietnam, officials in Canberra were quietly pleased that the Indonesian army, aided by Muslim vigilantes, was "eliminating" the local communist party. Their only concern, declassified Foreign Affairs cables show, was that Soeharto and his generals might not have the stomach to complete the task.

He was a bad man. And the Australian government did not serve us well in relation to him.

Sunday, 27 January 2008

Time for a Blackadder quote

"They do say, Mrs M., that verbal insults hurt more than physical pain. They are of course wrong, as you will soon discover...when I stick this toasting fork in your head."


Saturday, 26 January 2008

We'll see friends from church

this evening, Australia Day 2008, which people here seem to take far more seriously than they did even 20 years ago.

Not me, but I'm glad for the long weekend, and even gladder for the persistence of our friends in trying to have us 'round. Very, very kind.

Schlatter: Think it, talk it, work it.

This really is the best quote I've come across in quite a while (thanks Tony Payne):

I keep myself as free as possible from conjectures and avoid therefore the effort to overturn them. This does not seem like a fruitful business to me. For conjectures are not overturned by producing more of the same. They sink away when one sees that observation is more fruitful than conjecture ... I call Wissenschaft [scholarship] the observation of what exists, not the attempt to imagine what is not visible. Perhaps one will object that the guesswork of conjecture excites and entertains while obervation is hard and difficult work. But the Gospel is misunderstood when one makes a plaything out of it.

You can find the quote in the intro to John Piper's What Jesus demands from the world.

Anyway. Schlatter, Adolph von. He da man. For sure I will be checking out his commentary on Romans when I drop in to Moore College library next Wednesday.

Speaking of brothels

I did visit one once. With my father.

It was in a somewhat grubby four star hotel in Beijing, and we thought it was a karaoke club.

It was all a bit embarrassing. What if they had asked us to sing?

Anyway, they didn't, and we left when we realized our mistake. Or at least I did. Realize. I haven't asked my father what he made of it, and possibly I never will.


Got whupped, but good!

Some of Ruby's gems

(From when she was a bit younger, about 3 1/2)

Run, run, ah dah fast,
catch ah me, ah dah fast!


Baa baa, sheep ah, any any more,
Yes ah yes ah three bags ah.
One ah dah marksah, one ah dah day,
One ah dah little boy,
Lives ah dah wane!


Boat, boat, boat a dwee, gently down the dwee,
Merry, Merry, Merry, Merry,
Boat a boat a dwee!

Friday, 25 January 2008

Bible reading

Here is an absolutely terrific post, part of a series, about Bible reading from my Melbourne buddy Jean. It's aimed at women (mums especially) but in its brevity, thoroughness, and in the various recommendations and observations that it makes, it is going to be useful for anyone.

I agree with her observation that it is much easier to memorize large, continual slabs of Scripture than single verses. I am not as systematic as her. In fact, I am not as systematic as Ozzy Osborne, whereas it is quite possible that there is no-one in the world currently living who is as systematic as Jean. But that observation is one that works no matter how organized or chaotic your mind, because meaning increases as context is understood, and meaning aids memory.

Anyway, keep watching her blog. It is thoughtful and well-written, and you can be sure that the opinions in it aren't ventured lightly or lazily.

Brothels and you

Just ducked 'round the corner for a half hour or so, with the rest of the family, to be part of a photo of a protest about a brothel application. There was an older Mediterranean man there from across the street who was complaining in a loud voice that he didn't wanta the place to end up like Marrickville. A couple of local politicians were there and made some impromptu speeches. And a bunch of kids, along with their parents and various others. Two reporters from two local papers. Bit of a street party feel really, except with placards instead of balloons. And we had to be told not to smile for the cameras.

Off the top of my head I thought of three reasons why I don't like the idea of a brothel 'round the corner. Although there was one legal one, in Brunswick where we were for years, and Brunswick was a great place to live (don't tell anyone).

Firstly, the women. Whether they are involved voluntarily or not (but especially if not), there is exploitation involved. People who see no problem with women choosing to be prostitutes would be repulsed by the thought of their wives, sisters, mothers or daughters making such a decision. Many women who make these choices are either desperate, or from sad and abusive family backgrounds.

Secondly, the men. Men who use prostitutes are creeps. I walk my daughters to and from school, and I don't want men who want to pay for sex walking or driving past my girls, regardless of whether I'm there but especially if I'm not.

Thirdly, marriage matters. Men who visit prostitutes are undermining marriage through adultery and fornication, and a society that tolerates such behaviour, to the extent of legalizing it, is not doing well by the people in it or in the sight of God.

I suppose there is the argument that places that are really interesting and enjoyable to live in, like Brunswick or Marrickville for that matter, need to accept that brothels are part of the scene. But those places are interesting and enjoyable despite the prostitution, and their interest and enjoyment would be increased if local sexual harrassment and exploitation was reduced.

Matthias Media

Matthias Media are the people who allow me to run amok on one of the longest leashes seen since Theseus attached one to the minotaur.

You will see that their buttons—Matthias Media and Two Ways to Live—are now on my blog, over on the right and under my photo. That way they can sort of be associated with me, but pull out the old 'government denies knowledge' line whenever I say something too inflammatory or excessive.

Be nice to them and click through to see what's to be seen. Thanks heaps Karen for helping me get it sorted out.

Thursday, 24 January 2008

A PS on Paul, Athens, Acts 17 and the rest of it

I've just now checked out the Greek word 'deisidaimonesterous', translated in Acts 17:22 as 'very religious' (although Rob Doyle, theology lecturer at Moore College, cheekily suggests 'demon possessed'). Here's the whole sentence from the ESV translation:

So Paul, standing in the midst of the Areopagus, said: “Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious."

3 Greek-English lexicons of the NT (Louw and Nida; Thayer; and Arndt and Gingrich) and an FF Bruce commentary on Acts later, I've confirmed what I suspected. That is, that this expression 'very religious' can't be used as an example of Paul smoothing the way for the bitter pill that is the gos-pill.

Summarizing what the lexicons say and adding a bit more, FF Bruce comments as follows:

This characterization of the Athenians by Paul was not necessarily meant to be complimentary: we are told that it was forbidden to use complimentary exordia in addressing the Areopagus court, with the hope of securing its goodwill. [Bruce here gives a footnote: "Cf. Lucian, Anacharsis 19"]. The expression Paul used could also mean "rather superstitious"; it was as vague a term in Greek as "religion" is in English, and what was piety to Greeks was superstition to Jews (and vice versa). [Bruce then has a footnote suggesting the reader compare with the noun 'deisidaimonia' in Acts 25:19.]

- The Book of the Acts, in the New International Commentary on the New Testament series (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1988) p 335.

Being an inquisitive soul I read a bit further and found that Bruce noticed something else I noticed, which is that Paul scarcely laid 'em in the aisles with his knockdown delivery:

There is no mention of any baptisms at Athens, nor is Paul said to have planted a church there. Although Athens was in the Roman province of Achaia, it is a family resident in Corinth that Paul describes as "the firstfruits of Achaia" (1 Cor 16:15). If the response to his preaching in Athens was scanty, the reason may lie with the Athenians' refusal to take him seriously...

The Athenians of today have made up for their ancestors' indifference by engraving the text of Paul's Areopagitica on a bronze tablet at the foot of the ascent to the Areopagus, and by naming a neighbouring thoroughfare in honor of the apostle.

So there you go. Always reassuring to find one of the great ones confirming something you thought you'd noticed. I don't know where old FF gets off, though, suggesting that the present day Athenians have compensated by putting up a plaque and naming a road. Call me eccentric, but I'd have said that the way to make up for ignoring Paul was to start paying attention to his message, and preparing to meet the risen Lord Jesus on the day of his terrible and glorious judgement of the whole of creation.

Wednesday, 23 January 2008

Paul, Athens, Acts 17 and cross-cultural sensitivity.

Acts 17:16-31 is frequently held up as a model of Paul's cross-cultural sensitivity in his evangelism of non-Jews who were completely unfamiliar with Christian ideas and teaching. Have a quick read:

Acts 17:16 Now while Paul was waiting for them at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him as he saw that the city was full of idols. 17 So he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and the devout persons, and in the marketplace every day with those who happened to be there. 18 Some of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers also conversed with him. And some said, “What does this babbler wish to say?” Others said, “He seems to be a preacher of foreign divinities”—because he was preaching Jesus and the resurrection. 19 And they took hold of him and brought him to the Areopagus, saying, “May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting? 20 For you bring some strange things to our ears. We wish to know therefore what these things mean.” 21 Now all the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there would spend their time in nothing except telling or hearing something new.

Acts 17:22 So Paul, standing in the midst of the Areopagus, said: “Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious. 23 For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription, ‘To the unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. 24 The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, 25 nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. 26 And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, 27 that they should seek God, in the hope that they might feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, 28 for

“ ‘In him we live and move and have our being’;
as even some of your own poets have said,
“ ‘For we are indeed his offspring.’

Acts 17:29 Being then God’s offspring, we ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man. 30 The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, 31 because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.”

Acts 17:32 Now when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked. But others said, “We will hear you again about this.” 33 So Paul went out from their midst. 34 But some men joined him and believed, among whom also were Dionysius the Areopagite and a woman named Damaris and others with them.

In making the case, various observations are routinely trotted out.

So for example, Paul doesn't move straight into the attack, offended though he is by the idolatry he sees everywhere (Acts 17:16). He goes to where the hearers are and engages them, even physically moving into their own territory. He assumes no prior knowledge of the God of the Lord Jesus Christ. He goes so far as to begin by complimenting them on their religiosity, and mentions their altar 'To the unknown god'. He is starting where they are, and sympathetically winning a hearing for himself and his message.

When he begins his explanation, his thoughtfulness and intelligent cultural sensitivity are again on display. He shows an awareness of what they know and what they don't know, and supplies plentiful background knowledge about the nature of God, who alone creates and sustains and rules the universe—all this before even mentioning a word about Jesus.

Then as he explains the truth about Jesus, he puts his best apologetic foot forward. He gently reminds his hearers of God's sovereign, patient, forbearing and sustaining grace before moving on to ideas they may find harder to hear. Indeed he saves to the very last the objectionable but necessary truth of the resurrection, thus allowing him the maximum amount of time possible to speak about the other aspects of God he would like them to hear about.

Of course some dismiss him and mock him as a fool (Acts 17:32), reinforcing their earlier judgement on him as a 'babbler' (Acts 17:18).

But the success of his evangelistic approach is seen in that "some men joined him and believed, among whom also were Dionysius the Areopagite and a woman named Damaris and others with them."

Sure, this is not as good as the 3000 at Pentecost (Acts 2:41), to whom many were added daily (Acts 2:47); nor yet as impressive as the 5000 men in Acts 4:4. But hey, I’m speaking as a theological evangelical not as a charismatic, so let’s forget the numbers for the moment. When it comes to sympathetic cross-cultural evangelism that would be the envy of our mission societies, not to mention our ministries at home to other ethnic groups, this is as good as it gets.

However, let me make five observations—there may be more—that suggest that Paul was never going to win the title ‘Mr Cross Cultural Sensitivity of the 50s*’ because of his performance in this place.

*That’s the first century 50s, not the 1950s

First, if we are to credit Paul with a thoughtful understanding of the people he is dealing with, it’s a pity he spends almost no time learning the culture and customs of the local Athenians. That has to be a cross-cultural boo-boo, doesn't it? He's never been there, he is on the run from a mob in Berea (Acts 17:14) and the encounter described in Athens takes place in the short gap while waiting for “Silas and Timothy to come to him as soon as possible.”

(but compare Acts 18:1 and 18:5, where it seems that Paul had already left Athens so quickly that Silas and Timothy had to catch him up).

He could have watched and waited, taken notes and thought carefully. Instead, he has to open his big mouth.

Nor does following up potential converts seem to have been part of Paul’s strategy on this occasion. His Athenian encounter is more like a one-night evangelistic stand than a slow and gentle courtship of ideas. Most contemporary mission societies worth their salt would shudder at the idea of parachuting in a culturally untested missionary like Paul, with a history of provoking violent conflict, for purposes of a one-off spontaneous debate hosted by the locals.

Second, Paul as a rule insisted that “the love of Christ control[led]” (2 Cor 5:14) and directed his evangelistic concern. But on this occasion pure exasperation with the local idol industry seems to have been the button that triggered his apparently unpremeditated spray against the local collection of religions. At least as far as motivation, we seem to be seeing at least two parts John the Baptist to one part Jesus. Frothing at the mouth is not an attitude that is going to set you up for careful and detached, yet sympathetic, analysis of the prevailing culture.

Third, although we like to level the accusation of cultural sensitivity at Paul, isn’t Luke (the writer of the account) the more likely recipient of such an award? He, and not Paul, is the one who carefully identifies the enormous cultural diversity that Paul must now wisely navigate in this ultra-cosmopolitan city: “Jews…devout persons…those who happened to be there…Epicurean and Stoic philosophers…Athenians…foreigners.” (Acts 17:17-21) As the missionary on home leave might be tempted to say over the first slide: “Athens. A city of contrasts.” Luke identifies those contrasts, a fact that only serves to highlight how Paul simply lumps every different group together under the general heading ‘idolatry’. Paul scores approximately 0.18 cross-cultural points out of a possible 10 for failing to even acknowledge the less than subtle differences between Epicurean and Stoic philosophy, not to mention the famous, richly traditional Athenian school of “those-who-happened-to-be-there-ites”.

Nevertheless, all this would not matter if it were to turn out that Paul gathered his self-control and allowed the love of Christ to shape the theme of his subsequent message in the direction of niceness and goodness instead of grumpiness. But does he? Let us see.

Fourth, Paul describing the Athenians as ‘very religious’ is a little bit like the school teacher who writes the nicely ambiguous school report summary, ‘Jane is a student who is trying at all times’. Anyone familiar with Romans 1:18-32 is hardly likely to mistake ‘very religious’ for a compliment. But even if the Athenians did think Paul was being nice (being understandably ill-acquainted with writings Paul had not yet produced), the supposed attempt to ‘start where his hearers are’ comes badly unstuck the more he tries to explain. It quickly becomes clear that the one Athenian resident idol Paul is prepared to give time to is ‘the unknown God’. And he immediately moves to alienation mode when he proceeds to insist that of thousands, possibly tens of thousands, of idols on display in Athens, this ‘unknown god’ is the only true one. This is a bit like preaching the gospel of the beef kebab at a vegetarian Hindu Body-Mind-Spirit festival.

Indeed and fifth, even picking out ‘the unknown god’ as the deity with whom the Athenians had hit the jackpot is a slightly awkward thing to do. Possibly the ‘unknown god’ was there as a form of insurance, in case an inadvertent error had been made. Possibly there was an attempt at humility on the part of the idol makers, in order not to seem to lay claim to too much knowledge. Whatever the case, if someone agrees with you that yes, you are essentially as ignorant as you acknowledge yourself to be, they are not fast tracking themselves to popularity.

From this point and on to the end of his address, Paul is sticking fairly close to the gospel itself. Thus it is quite possible that any offence he now proceeds to give is simply because he’s telling God’s story the way it is. So let’s go easy on him, and not mark him down for suggesting that God doesn’t need us, we need him. And let’s skate lightly over his faintly derogatory language about gods who need to be served “by human hands” (v 25; cf. Deut 4:28; 27:15; 31:29; 2 Chr 34:25; Ps 115:4; 135:15; Isa 2:8; 31:7; 37:19 etc.), especially since most likely only Jews would have picked up any insult here. Let’s even acknowledge that quoting an Athenian poet (Acts 17:28) is pretty good stuff really in the cross-cultural stakes, even if ad hominem argument is logically light on.

Nor could Paul have avoided the offence of the resurrection, even had he wanted to—along with its ludicrous and intellectually offensive assumption that God became a man; that that man died; and that this particular man has now been raised up to judge anyone who doesn’t repent of serving idols. Yes, Paul knew that the idea of God becoming a man and dying was offensive (1 Cor 1:18), but whether or not he wanted to offend by telling his audience, the passage doesn’t say. It’s probably enough to observe that along with Paul's own struggles in the sensitivity stakes, the gospel itself is the crowning example of a message that fails to take into account the cross-cultural context of the people being addressed, beyond recognizing the universal cross-cultural truth that we are all sinners in the hands of an angry God.

Tuesday, 22 January 2008

Fatherhood of God

I have to chase up a Jim Packer quote. It's from Knowing God, but I haven't got the book with me. Here it is:

If you want to judge how well a person understands Christianity, find out how much he makes of the thought of being God’s child, and having God as his Father. If this is not the thought that prompts and controls his worship and prayers and his whole outlook on life, it means that he does not understand Christianity very well at all. For everything that Christ taught, everything that makes the New Testament new, and better than the Old, everything that is distinctively Christian as opposed to merely Jewish, is summed up in the knowledge of the Fatherhood of God. ‘Father’ is the Christian name for God.

Wonderful quote though, isn't it? If any of you blog readers has this book sitting at home and can give me page number for the quote and publication details of the book, I'll post you a gift on facebook!

Help at hand for PC Users

All you PC losers out there will greatly appreciate this article on how to make your computer function more like an Apple Mac.

Monday, 21 January 2008

e4 c5

Bobby Fischer, the chess player, is dead at age 64.

The man was absolutely nuts. I bought Fischer v Spassky in 1972 when it came out, and at age 11 played through most of the games with little understanding of what I was reading or doing. However, he sold me on the P-K4 opening for quite a while. "Best by test", he argued.

The game he invented, on the basis that chess itself was all played out by over-analysis, sounds like a bit of fun.

I've been everywhere...

I've been undressed by kings,
and I've seen some things,
that a woman ain't s'posed to see,
oh I've been everywhere...dum de dum..something...

but I've never been to me

There are some great songs out there. Maybe someone could re-release this one with a new tune.

Sunday, 20 January 2008

Half here

I'm half back, from holidays that is.

Tomorrow it is possible that I will be fully back, but at the zoo with my sister visiting from Sweden, or somewhere else.

But morality in cricket. Who gives a (full) toss? We just want to see the Injuns gettin' whipped, and let the Bombay Cricket Council or whatever they call themselves deal with the ontological rights and wrongs of what's happened on the field.

If Matty Hayden, school bully that he is, had been playing, Anil Kumble and his troops would have been laughing out of the other side of their faces fo sho.

Wednesday, 9 January 2008


One time, disgusted by the condition of my hands at lunchtime, I decided to put soap on them in the morning and let the soap dry on. There was no soap available at the school toilets, so this made sense.

After a few days, however, my hands got itchy, so I stopped.

'Bout year 9, I think.

Soap's a bit over-rated, anyway.

OK, things actually will be sporadic this time

Managed about 5000 words yesterday, excluding bloggerizing around.

Yep, I really am on holidays now, so things will be quiet round these parts until Jan 21ish. Chess, scrabulous and blog-commenting buddies, please take note!

God bless!


Tuesday, 8 January 2008

Nearly there

'Do you remember that bit of rabbit, Mr Frodo?' [Sam] said. 'And our place under the warm bank in Captain Faramir's country, the day I saw an oliphaunt?'

'No, I am afraid not, Sam', said Frodo. 'At least, I know that such things happened, but I cannot see them. No taste of food, no feel of water, no sound of wind, no memory of tree or grass or flower, no image of moon or star are left to me. I am naked in the dark, Sam, and there is no veil between me and the wheel of fire. I begin to see it even with my waking eyes, and all else fades.'

-J.R.R. Tolkien The Return of the King: Being the Third Part of The Lord of the Rings (London: Unwin Books, 1974 (1955)), p 189.

Censorship, movie reviews and rightwingers

Thanks to Craig and John for the discussion

Monday, 7 January 2008

Movie reviews

If I really want to find out whether I want to go see a movie, I check that useful and witty aggregator But now I'm thinking of adding to the list. Here's why.

Today's Sydney Morning Herald has a story about a man who's put some hard work into demonstrating that movies promoting sex, violence and atheistic world views are not as profitable as movies that don't.

Among other things the story reports on how Ted Baehr, the man responsible for the site, has actually made a difference to the movies we watch, and has done so from a theologically conservative Christian position.

Baehr writes a worthwhile review of atheist Philip Pullman's the Golden Compass on his website,

The movies are rated on the sorts of things you'd expect in a secular movie review; features such as production values, plot, characterization and the other sorts of things you'd normally see in a film write-up. Then, there is an 'acceptability rating', about which the site says:

We gear the ratings to parents with children but also provide information for discerning adult viewers. For example, an Acceptability Rating of Plus One means caution for younger children ages 2-7, an Acceptability Rating of Minus One means caution for older children ages 8-12, and an Acceptability Rating of Minus Two means extreme caution for teenagers and/or adults. These Acceptability ratings are arranged not only according to age levels, but also according to a traditional Christian view of art, going from the sublime and the divine, Plus Four, to the abhorrent and demonic, Minus Four.

So, for example, The Golden Compass gets 3 stars in the general review, but is given an 'acceptability rating' of '-4, abhorrent'. Similarly, the review for Alien vs Predator: Requiem gives a general rating of 2 stars, an Acceptability rating of -3 (excessive) and in summary blasts it to kingdom come with the one-line dismissal "A Waste of Theater Space".

I suppose there are people in the US doing this sort of Christian movie rating all the time. The noteworthy thing about is just how far he's managed to get with the process. It's an encouragement to any of us (not just Christians) who dislike exploitative and sexually explicit trends in advertising or TV and movie programming, and decide to make the effort to complain.

Sunday, 6 January 2008


And the Christmas tree is down and out.

Saturday, 5 January 2008


There is no finer game.

Boofhead or brainerati; great or small; man, woman, girl or big fat girl's blouse, there is something there for you. Jew, Greek, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free; if you don't understand this game, you don't understand life.

Tendulkar gets another century at the SCG.

I ask you.

Is there a better religion in the whole world? Not Roman Catholicism, that's for sure.

Thursday, 3 January 2008

Jesus' prayers

Did Jesus ever pray with his disciples?

I can't think of a single example.

He prayed in their presence. He taught them how to pray. He went off by himself and prayed. We know this, because they write about it. In Gethsemane, they overhear him praying and he tells them that they, too, ought to pray. But he never ever prayed with them, as far as I have been able to discover.

I don't know what to make of this. For purposes of what I'm currently writing—stuff about how leaders should lead others—it is quite frustrating and it would be a lot easier for me if I could find what I'm looking for.

Thankfully for the case I'm trying to make, there are a number of times where Paul prayed with others, and if we can't imitate Christ, we can at least imitate him.

Acts 16:25 About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them...

Acts 20:36 And when he had said these things, he knelt down and prayed with them all.

2 Cor 13:7 But we pray to God that you may not do wrong—not that we may appear to have met the test, but that you may do what is right, though we may seem to have failed.

2 Cor 13:9 For we are glad when we are weak and you are strong. Your restoration is what we pray for.

Col. 1:3 We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you,

Col 1:9 And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding,

1 Thess 3:10 as we pray most earnestly night and day that we may see you face to face and supply what is lacking in your faith...

2 Thess 1:11 To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power...

So there are plenty of precedents, not to mention commands, to suggest that Christian leaders ought to pray with each other.

But this makes me wonder even more: Why did Jesus never pray with his disciples? (as far as the gospel accounts record)

There is something terribly alienating about this. Not only for us, at outsiders looking in; but for Him, who faced the terror of death and wrath alone:

Heb. 5:7   In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence. 8 Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. 9 And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him, 10 being designated by God a high priest after the order of Melchizedek.

Some thoughts: when we do see Jesus praying, we are being given insight into the very nature of the Trinity. the Son always prays to the Father. The Father never prays to the Son. But the Father graciously gives all things into the Son's hands, both because he sovereignly wills to do so and because the Son, in faith, asks and receives. The Son trusts the Father perfectly for all things, even life itself. (But I am going to have to think some more about whether the Hebrews passage proves this)

And, given that the disciples did not yet have the Holy Spirit, did Jesus refrain from praying with them because they were not yet friends, but servants?

Even so, if Jesus now allows and commands us to pray to the Father as he has prayed, then we are being given admission into a very great privilege.

Heb. 10:19    Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, 20 by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.

Although we are not God, we are being invited to share in Trinitarian delight.

Blessèd assurance, Jesus is mine!
O what a foretaste of glory divine!
Heir of salvation, purchase of God,
Born of His Spirit, washed in His blood.



For God

For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

2 Corinthians 4:6

Ring out the old

Ring Out, Wild Bells

Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,
The flying cloud, the frosty light;
The year is dying in the night;
Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.

Ring out the old, ring in the new,
Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.

Ring out the grief that saps the mind,
For those that here we see no more,
Ring out the feud of rich and poor,
Ring in redress to all mankind.

Ring out a slowly dying cause,
And ancient forms of party strife;
Ring in the nobler modes of life,
With sweeter manners, purer laws.

Ring out the want, the care the sin,
The faithless coldness of the times;
Ring out, ring out my mournful rhymes,
But ring the fuller minstrel in.

Ring out false pride in place and blood,
The civic slander and the spite;
Ring in the love of truth and right,
Ring in the common love of good.

Ring out old shapes of foul disease,
Ring out the narrowing lust of gold;
Ring out the thousand wars of old,
Ring in the thousand years of peace.

Ring in the valiant man and free,
The larger heart, the kindlier hand;
Ring out the darkness of the land,
Ring in the Christ that is to be.

—Alfred, Lord Tennyson

(Thanks, Nicole)


It would be great to see our state governments tackling this issue in 2008, with help from Big Kev.

This is something Christians could help with. If we are concerned about homelessness and welfare dependency, gambling is one of the roots of this bitter fruit (along with alcohol).

Wednesday, 2 January 2008

New Year's Resolutions

Always been irritated by them. No, more than that, can't stand them, especially those relating to weight loss and exercise. The last resolution I made a few years ago, which was to increase my commitment to cigar smoking, failed miserably. I had been a cigar a month man, and I promptly dropped back to about twice a year. You see? Resolutions don't work. Weight loss resolutions in particular remain a puzzlement to me. They especially don't work, and there are many better ways to lose weight if you feel you have to.

One of my favourite gags off The Simpsons was the tombstone that read "Lose Weight now—Ask me How!"

Anyway, if you were going to make resolutions (or if I were, for that matter), it would be to pray more when I hear news like this, about people who were sheltering in church being burnt to death by an angry post-election mob in Kenya. And also, I'll be praying this month for Christian friends in Pakistan, after the assassination of Benazir Bhutto. There'll be regular reminders of Pakistan (and therefore prompts to pray) during the Oz vs India Cricket Test series this month, which I'm listening to on the wireless even as I type. Go Oz!

I suppose people who were committed to resolutions about weight loss and exercise might spend a year or three in Kenya (or Pakistan) helping the local churches there to rebuild after they'd been attacked by militant anti-Christians or mobs of people pursuing other fights. You'd lose weight like nobody's business, and you wouldn't even have to think about it.


is how this blog is, and will continue to be, until January 21. Happy New Year to all my readers!

2nd Test starts today.